How to

How To: Plants and dirty hands


What I love to bits is when artists tell about how they made a certain illustration, drawing or painting. In a way it’s really soothing to me to see how they went about. So hopefully you will find the way how I made this illustration also fun!
I will show you how I came up with the idea and how I started beginning all the way from the first sketch…

Since three years I live in an apartment in the city of Rotterdam. But I’ve got to be honest with you here: I really do miss a garden. I’ve always had gardens but moving to the big city, there was simply no money to rent a place with one. That might be one of the reasons I draw plants and flowers so often!

Usually it starts with an idea that pops into my head. There’s no way I can trace this back to anywhere, it’s just there in my head.

I started sketching on regular printer paper. Quite small, with a mechanical pencil. I always draw very small thumbnails first, to see if the composition works. This is something I also tell my students during workshops and classes: start sketching small, don’t waste too much time on details. Get the global idea on paper to see if the composition works.
At first I drew the face of the girl full on, but then I decided it would work better from the side.

Also, I carry a small sketchbook with me wherever I go. I prefer an A5-sized sketchbook, which is also available in my shop.

How to: dirty hands and plants

Then I started picking colors. I am really nuts about colors and the right palette. Honestly, if the colors don’t fit, I don’t like the illustration I made πŸ™‚
In this case I used watercolors.


After that I crossed off any colors that didn’t suit the palette I had in mind.


I drew the lines with orange pencil because I thought it would disappear once I put the watercolors over it, but it didn’t. The orange was too bright.
So, I had to start over.


This time I went back to my good old trust-worthy mechanical pencil. I often use a 2B pencil. Most people use HB but I prefer 2B because it’s softer and much easier to erase.


Then I started painting the first layer of watercolors. Right now I’m incredibly happy with Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolors.
I keep my palette next to it all the time, to check if I’m ‘on tone’.


First I did all the green colors and the blue of the dungarees. I want them the compliment each other, so I also used some blue tones in the plants. To me, this is crucial to create balance.


After the watercolors I did the first layer of pencil. I used green to add shadows and I dark blue pencil to bring texture to the dungarees.


I added some more details with watercolors like the branches, hair and the veins in the leaves.


Then, some more shading with pencil, and the stripey shirt. I added some white gouache on the flowers and other plants, to give it a ‘shine’.


With pencil I accentuated the hair and made smaller details pop more.



And it’s finished! It always seems like an easy job to make an illustration like this, but overall it took me two whole days to make it.

step12 step13 step14


print_plantsanddirtyhands1Buy the art print

If you like this illustration, I have an giclee art print of it in my web shop. I will sign each print of course!
It’s €25 and A4 size.

Buy it here






The tools I used/prefer:

– 2B pencil
– Daler Rowney sketchbook

– Winsor & Newton Cotman watercolors
– Colored pencils (like Faber Castell or Caran D’ache)
– Watercolor paper

I really hope you liked this first blog post! If you want to learn more about illustration and art, you can always sign up for one of my workshops or classes.
Are you already inspired by this and making some of your own art already? Awesomesocks! Do tag me on instagram (with my name or #marloesinspired) so I can find it and look what you’re up to! Okay, now MAKE GOOD ART πŸ™‚

Do you have some friends that need inspiration? Don’t hesitate to send them this blog post, which you can easily share through the buttons here, right below!

Marloes De Vries


















You Might Also Like


  • Reply Beertje Vonk ( @beertje_vonk_artist op Instagram 19/08/2016 at 12:30 pm

    Hartstikke leuk, Marloes. Ik zelf vind het ook heel spannend om te zien wat een collega kunstenaar doe om tot een eindresultaat te komen. En de tekening is super.

  • Reply Marielle 19/08/2016 at 12:54 pm

    Wat heb je dat mooi gemaakt. Echt super-interessant om te zien en te lezen! En een prachtig kunstwerk.

  • Reply Ivy 19/08/2016 at 12:56 pm

    First comment on your new blog, 😊 lovely illustration and interesting to see the process of making it, it makes me look closer to the smaller details you have added. Well done, looking forward to your next blog post.

  • Reply Tamara Boon 19/08/2016 at 1:10 pm

    Prachtig! Leuke en nuttige blog. En je houdt je kwast hetzelfde vast als ik m’n pennen/ potloden! Dat zie ik niet vaak

  • Reply Isobel 19/08/2016 at 1:11 pm

    So interesting to see your process -thank you! I’ll look forward to your future blog posts πŸ™‚

  • Reply Julie 19/08/2016 at 2:07 pm

    Great first post! I can’t wait to read more. I learned so much from the way you dissected your process. Thank you for sharing.

  • Reply Egle 19/08/2016 at 2:15 pm

    Such a lovely blog post! It’s good to hear that it takes a long time to make illustrations for experienced artists because as an amateur that’s something I really struggle with.

    Can’t wait to see more posts!

  • Reply Lily 19/08/2016 at 2:15 pm

    Hi Marloes,

    I’m your fan from Indonesia. I’ve always loved and enjoyed your art. This is a lovely blog. Will read it frequently.

    Much love,

  • Reply Mandy 19/08/2016 at 4:39 pm

    Hoi Marloes, super tof Blog bericht!
    Heel leuk zo de combinatie van aquarel verf en potlood.
    Super mooie illustratie ook!
    Bedankt! Heel leerzaam πŸ™‚
    Groetjes, Mandy

  • Reply Alia 19/08/2016 at 7:04 pm

    Beautiful! πŸ™‚

  • Reply Marleen 't Hart 19/08/2016 at 9:42 pm

    Super idee! En bedankt voor het delen. Mooie kleuren en ook echt een goede combi! Vind ik zelf altijd zΓ³ lastig…. Groetjes Marleen

  • Reply Anke 20/08/2016 at 12:39 am

    Helemaal leuk! En eens met delen van je proces, dat is gaaf om van anderen te zien! En idem met 2B potlood, zoveel fijner πŸ™‚

  • Reply Aneliya 20/08/2016 at 9:15 am

    Abut the sketch – blue watersoluble pencil would work just fine, if you do not want the lines to be seen afterwards. Great idea and illu. Cheers :))

  • Reply Rensina Steursma 21/08/2016 at 9:49 am

    Wat een tof eerste blogbericht!
    Heel erg leuk om te lezen hoe je je illustratie hebt opgebouwd.
    Ben nu al benieuwd naar je volgende blogje en neem gelijk even een kijkje in je shop.
    Fijne zondag, Rensina

  • Reply Simone 21/08/2016 at 7:52 pm

    Heel leuk om te lezen en super om jouw creatieve proces te zien. Ik ben zeker geΓ―nspireerd πŸ™‚ liefs Simone

  • Reply Jes 23/08/2016 at 9:30 am

    Zo mooi om te zien! Dankjewel voor het delen!

  • Reply Nienke | letter.type 24/08/2016 at 8:13 am

    Like! En jaaa, ik ben ook voor vaker dit soort post, superleuk en leerzaam om het proces te zien!

  • Reply Lotte 26/08/2016 at 8:54 am

    YAY! Heel erg leuk!😊 Vaker doen!!!!!!!πŸ˜‰πŸ˜‰
    XXX Lotte

  • Reply Martina 21/09/2016 at 1:48 pm

    So super interesting! That you take the time to choose the color palette – makes total sense! However I thought you would just randomly choose the colors. Also the time frame you mentioned. No wonder, I get so little done because I only have half an hour here and there. That’s nice to know – now I’m less frustrated:-) Thank you so much for sharing your process!!!

  • Reply Sarah 05/02/2017 at 11:49 am

    Thank you so much for sharing – I also love to see how other artists create their pieces!
    Your work is wonderful and I think the effort you put into the color palette and thumbnail sketches totally pay out! πŸ™‚

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.